1864: John Allen Osborn To Radford M. Osborn

Osborn’s Grave Marker

This fascinating letter was written by John Allen Osborn (1835-1922), Co. I, 10th Kentucky Infantry — a Union Civil War soldier who grew up in Kentucky, a border state during the struggle. Both the prejudice and lack of formal education are evident throughout the letter.

John A. Osborn was the son of Benjamin Jefferson Osborn (1810-1840) and Nancy Ann Hudspeth (1809-1878). John was married in December 1856 to Louisa Cathrine (“Katy”) LaGrand (1841-1928) and had three children prior to his enlistment. He wrote the letter to older brother, Radford Maxie Osborn (1831-1909) still working the family farm in Hardin County, Kentucky. Radford’s biography claims he served as a Union soldier early in the war (Co. I, 28th Kentucky) and later served as U.S. Marshall for the Louisville District and commander of the state militia. He was taken at prisoner at the Battle of Mumfordsville.

John Allen Osborn and his wife Katy in front of their home in Kentucky (ca 1910)

Addressed to Mr. R. M. Osborn, Big Springs, Hardin County, Kentucky
Postmarked Chattanooga, Tennessee

Chattanooga, East Tennessee
January 18th 1864

Dear Brother and Sister,

It is with the greatest of pleasure that I seat myself to write you this letter which I am happy to inform you that I am well and hearty at the present time. And I do hope and trust to God that these few lines may find you and family all well. I have just received a letter from you and I am very glad to hear from you for it has been so long since I have heard from you.

You wrote that you wanted me to give you the price of things down here. Well, there is nothing here to sell — only in the commissary, for there is nothing in the country [with]in 75 miles of this place to be got and the quartermaster sell everything out of reason. They sell cracker boxes that weigh only 50 lbs. for $3.00 dollars a box and coffee is worth 60 cts. per lb. and sugar is worth 50 cts. per lb. Light bread is worth 25 cts. per lb., beef is worth 10cts. at the slaughter pen, pork is worth 25 cts. at pen.  Bacon is worth from 15 to 25 cts. per lb. Corn there is none to be had at any price. Flour is worth from 10 to 12 dollars per hundred. Biscuits is worth $1.50 per dozen and them about the size of dollars at that. So you can see how times is here at this time. The citizens are living on half rations and they have to get that from the government or they would starve to death so you know that they are about out of the scrape.

You wrote that you wanted to know how many negro regiments that we have here. I have never saw a negro regiment yet nor I don’t want to see one. I have heard that there a negro regiment at Winchester but they never have brought them to the front yet nor there have never been a negro engaged in a fight in our army here yet. But when we took Missionary Ridge, a saw a negro laying dead on the battlefield that was killed on the rebel side with his gun by him and his cartridge box on so you can see that the rebels has negroes to fight for them. If I had not of seen this with my own eyes myself, I would not of believed it. But now I know it is so.

Now I want you to write to me as soon as you get this letter. Give my love to Uncle H. Samson [Lawson?] and Mr. Bowely and family. Also to all enquiring friends. I want you to write whether Cyrus Klinglesmith [Clinglesmith] is a rebel or not. Write how George Lawson thinks of the South now.

I have not got a letter from home for 2 weeks so with these few remarks, I will close. I still remain your friend and brother until death, — John A. Osborn, 3rd Corps, Co. I, 10th Kentucky

To R. M. Osborn and family

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